Venue: Old Fitzroy Theatre (Woolloomooloo NSW), Jun 9 – 27, 2015
Playwright: Enda Walsh
Director: Kate Gaul
Cast: Thomas Campbell
Image by Diana Popovska
Enda Walsh’s Misterman addresses the very contemporary concern of fundamentalist religiosity and its place within secular societies. The tension between the private and the public seems to be approaching its breaking point with our obsessive attention on terrorist activity around the globe. The principle of individuals keeping religious beliefs to themselves has always been precarious, and now we see every day, the violent trespass of those beliefs upon the lives of others. Thomas lives in a small Irish town, and like Travis in Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver, he becomes increasingly frustrated by the sins he perceives to be thriving around him. Further parallels can be drawn with other “outsiders” like Norman Bates and Carrie, and accordingly, Misterman appeals to our sentimental feelings for the underdog, as well as that undeniable dread arising from seeing the oppressed struggling at the end of their tether.
Beautifully imagined and directed by Kate Gaul, the intimacy of the venue is utilised to enhance the confrontational quality of the text. Her show is a bold one, with an abundance of creative devices invented to provide intrigue, interest and dimension to the monologue format. Subtleties of Walsh’s writing can sometimes be drowned out, but the intensity of what is being presented proves to be arresting, and we engage with the work thoroughly for its entirety. The holistic incorporation of design faculties demonstrates a sophistication that reflects a deep understanding of the nature and capacities of theatre. Set by Gaul, lights by Harley T A Kemp, music and sound by Nate Edmondson contribute much more than atmosphere. The way we understand the protagonist’s environment and his psychology happens through the accomplishments of this formidable design crew, and their exhaustive exploration of space and fantasy.
Thomas Campbell gives the performance of a lifetime in Misterman. His affinity with the material at hand, and the vast amount of depth he has discovered in the text and within himself, have conjured up a tremendous character, rich with life and poignancy. Campbell pushes hard and what he attains is glorious. The focus, energy, sensitivity and intuition he displays, is a rare gift to audiences that we must accept with a gratitude as sincere as what he puts on stage.
The play is about the way we break, and because we are all, to some extent, broken people, the work is accessible in spite of Thomas’ oddness and idiosyncrasies. The isolation and cruelty he experiences is exceptional but also familiar, and through his story, we can perhaps learn about understanding and compassion, which are necessary but often lacking. We don’t need much to survive, but the basic things don’t come easy.